Jue Joe has been successful beyond all rights . It is an era when Chinese are prevented from immigrating , those that are already here are prevented from leaving and returning back to China , they are prevented from bringing wives , and most importantly for our story they are prevented from owning land . America is a land of rules and regulations , rules and regulations that make it very hard for Chinese to succeed here , but Joe like others of his generation has learned how to circumvent and navigate around those rules
. He learns that he must be designated as a "Merchant" and not a "Farmer" to have favored status under the immigration laws and move back and forth freely between China and America and to bring his family here, so a merchant he becomes. Most importantly , the Alien Land Act prevents he or his Chinese born sons from ever owning land . He has had an arrangement with his friend Otto Brant who has bought the land for him , but the land is in Otto's name not his. He knows that as soon as he has American born children he must immediately deed his land to them , so that the land can truly be owned by the family.
In China , of course , this would not be necessary. It is a given in Chinese custom and law that the family holdings would fall along patrilineal lines to his sons and not his daughters. Daughters like my Great Auntie Corrine and Dorothy , once married, are essentially separated from the family and join the family of their husbands and have no rights to the property or wealth of their birth families. Widows of men in the family line , such as my Great Auntie May , could remain in the family household and share in the family's wealth if they produced a male heir . But in Chinese custom their standing in the household would purely be as the mother of an heir to the patrilineal line . A widow , such as Auntie May , with her three daughters and no male heir would be dependent on the generosity and kindness of her husband's father and brothers to support her ,but she would have no right to family wealth or property.
In Chinese custom and law , the eldest male heir in the patrilineal line would assume the role of patriarch of the family and would along with his brothers make decisions concerning family property and wealth . Jue Joe was like most men of his generation in America very Chinese in their concept of the roles and relationships of the members of the family , but he understood that America had it's own rules that had to be circumvented to insure the success of the family for the generations to come .
And so Jue Joe insures that the Van Nuys property is deeded to Corrine and later he and San Tong make sure the Tulare ( Porterville) property is deeded to Dorothy . According to American law , the property will be owned free and clear by the girls when they come of age , it will be theirs to do with what they want . But Jue Joe knows that that the girls will understand that their role in the family will be to hold the property for San Tong , who will then make the decisions and manage the property as he sees fit . It is the Chinese way . He knows that everyone in his family will understand their roles . It does not have to be written down . He DID understand very well that America is a land of rules whereas China was a land of relationships and well defined roles. What he did not realize was that his family was becoming American and no longer Chinese. It was an error that would cause the family to be torn asunder and would haunt the generations to come. But more of that later .
San Tong tells Soo-Yin the story of the depression years . "The Depression hit us hard. If we were to sell the Van Nuys ranch and sail to China as Pa had wanted , we'd have gotten only half
its value. Everything Pa had lived for ,everything he strived for had slipped throught his fingers and he was so unhappy .
The night Pa passed from us he was sweating so badly , in his one room cabin on the ranch. I swear that he soaked his bed clean through . But it notified me that he was alert and that his mind was sharp as a razor because he knew his ulcer had burst , though he wouldn't let me bring him to the hospital. In my attempt to comfort him I said, 'You'll pull through ok , don't you worry'. Pa went ballistic, 'A fool can see I'm a goner'. But behind Pa's tough exterior I saw that he was heartbroken for all that he couldn't give to his family , the Depression had cut us hard." Before dawn on February 26, 1941 that agony was what he carried to his grave.
" Ater Pa died I was determined to make good for us . And believe me , it was scary because we were in debt up to our ears. No matter what happened at the Produce Exchange- or in the fields in our farm--- I had to clear at least ten thousand dollars a year just to make ends meet. I HAD to do that . "